Remembering Phyllis Diller – My Personal Connection

It was with a melancholy pang of nostalgia that I reacted to the death of the legendary Phyllis Diller on August 20 at the age of 95. While her stand-up routine was never quite my cup of tea, I admired her feisty determination and grit. She was a remarkable woman who did not embark on her comedy career until she was nearly 40 with five kids. Upon her death, there were many articles published with trivia/facts and quite a few of her jokes – these are among the most intriguing:

  • Phyllis had a voice-over role with Boris Karloff in Mad Monster Party (1969).
  • Phyllis appeared with bombshell Jayne Mansfield in The Fat Spy (1966).
  • Phyllis was an accomplished pianist and although she gave it up professionally, she owned a custom-made harpsichord that she played at home.
  • Although she used cigarette holders in her comedy routine, she was a confirmed, lifelong non-smoker.
  • Phyllis outlived three of her children – one died in infancy in 1945 before Phyllis embarked on her comedy career – it was her son Perry (who is 62) who found his mom had passed away peacefully in her sleep with a smile on her face.
  • Phyllis holds the world record in the Guinness Book Of World Records for most punchlines delivered in 60 seconds, averaging 12.

 A Few Phyllis Diller Jokes

  • Burt Reynolds once asked me out. I was in his room.
  • You know you’re old if they have discontinued your blood type.
  • Tranquilizers only work if you follow the instructions on the bottle – keep away from children.
  • You know you’re old if your walker has an airbag.
  • The real reason your pro tells you to keep your head down is so you can’t see him laughing at you.
  • What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.
  • I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.

My Phyllis Diller story is that I interviewed her when I worked at Prevent Blindness America. Part of my role as Media Relations Director for this national charitable organization was to track down any celebrity with an eye connection – whether it was an eye disease or injury. And when I was done with this sleuth work, I would contact the talent agent and hope to get a positive response about conducting a written interview for PBA News and distributing a press release. I cannot find that issue of PBA News, but the press release is still out there. Phyllis Diller’s longtime agent, Milton Suchin was the nicest Hollywood agent I ever encountered – what a sweetheart of a guy. We had several delightful phone conversations and he was a breath of fresh air from the usual cold shoulder that greeted me most of the time. So what connected Phyllis Diller to the world of saving sight? She was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration shortly after awaking one morning with part of the vision of her right eye blacked out. She had the same plucky attitude towards vision loss as every other challenge she had faced in her life. What a helluva woman who paved the way for other great female comedians.

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